Sep 24, 2011 · 0 Comments

Reviewing Broadway by Amar Santana

Those of you who are frequent visitors to the Laguna Beach culinary world no doubt remember experiencing one or more wonderful meals at Five Feet. Sadly, this landmark Laguna restaurant closed its doors earlier this year. Happily, it has been replaced by a restaurant that, although nothing at all like Five Feet, brings a fresh and very different vibe to the Village.

Before I go any further, I need to say that we loved this place—the food and the service were excellent. I am going to make a couple of observations that might be construed as negative, but they are really very minor points and are just one person's observations. Keep in mind that this was only the fourth night that Broadway was open, so they were still getting their act together. Taking that into consideration—and considering how much we loved it—I have no doubt it will only get better.

I must be honest and say that, after viewing the Broadway website, I made reservations with some small degree of trepidation. At first view, the menu appeared very ordinary and very limited. When we arrived, our first impression was equally apprehensive. The restaurant's interior decor is very—very—eclectic. The wait-staff were all very casually dressed in blue jeans and aprons, briefly giving the impression that we had just walked into a high-end cowboy country barbeque eatery. Let me quickly say that the impression quickly changes as your night progresses. The place, quite simply, grows on you. You soon come to realize that the restaurant is exactly what Chef Amar Santana intended it to be—a little slice of Broadway transported to Laguna Beach.

Most of the tables at Broadway by Amar Santana are closely lined up along one wall, facing the lounge-style bar and open kitchen. There's method to this madness. The kitchen is the focus of the entire room – it's the "stage" for the culinary show you are about to experience. For the lucky six who get to sit at the "chef's table," it's a front-row seat for the chef's six-course tasting menu. If you can put together a group of six – or if you catch them on a night when no one else has reserved all six seats—the Chef's Table is the place you want to be.

As I previously mentioned, the standard menu is short and sweet, but Santana plans to add more items as he gets a better feel for his patrons' likes and dislikes. On the night we were there, you could choose from five appetizers ranging in price from $11 to $22. There was also a selection of 11 different small plates ($6 to $16) and we chose two of these as our starters—pita bread with hummus topped with delightful crunchy garbanzos; and decadent bacon wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates. There were so few Mains that I can actually list them all: Lightly Smoked Wild King Salmon $26; Crisp Seared Duck Breast $31; Butter Poached Jidori Farm Chicken $27; Grilled Prime Ny Strip Loin $39; and one special, Filet Mignon with crispy polenta, lobster mushrooms, and a red wine sauce $35.

I went for the Filet Special and my husband of course chose the Salmon. Interestingly, the steak portion was huge and half of it went home with us. The Salmon portion was just the opposite; a long thin ration paired with baby potatoes, ikura, and crème fraiche on a plate the size of a bar stool seat, which only made it seem smaller. My husband, who greatly appreciates modern culinary presentation and who does not expect massive portions at any gourmet restaurant, commented that the typical male patron is probably going to ask, "When does the rest of it show up?" That said, the portion was perfect for him. He also said it was perfectly cooked and delicious and he loved the luxurious addition of Ikura roe. My steak was top quality and perfectly done and I devoured the polenta—one of my favorites.

We will be back to Broadway again and again—and not just because they make our illusive Vesper Martini with Cocchi Americana, which harkens back to the days of Ian Fleming and Kina Lillet. (But that’s another story.)  Chef Amar Santana, along with partners Ahmed Labbate and Rich Cadarette, has created more than just another same old Laguna Beach restaurant. It’s clear that Broadway by Amar Santana will become a favorite meeting place for locals whose tastes are a little left of typical. We were very excited to meet Santana and Labatte in person on the night we were there, and we immediately liked them both. These two have an extensive background with Charlie Parker restaurants, but this ain’t no Charlie Parker’s. The look is clean and eclectic. The vibe is a lot New York—but without pretentions. Chef Santana told us he wants Broadway to be a place where people can simply have a casual bite at the bar with a cocktail; impress friends or colleagues with fun and exciting dinner at the chef’s table; or just have a comfortable and delicious dinner out. We think it will become one of our favorite places for all of those things.

To learn more about Santana, Labbate, Cadarette, and Broadway, take some time exploring their website. You’ll quickly come to appreciate what makes Broadway by Amar Santana stand out from the crowd.

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